A classic Indian dessert, Gulab jamuns are these scrumptious dumplings that look and taste wonderful. In a party or in a holiday meal, a bowlful of Gulab jamuns on the table adds an extra touch love and warmth to the menu. The name itself works magic on your taste buds. Gulab means rose (traditionally, the syrup used to have rose essence) and jamun stands for round ball and is also the name for a dark purple berry, grown in India. Gulab Jamuns have a soft, moist texture and together with saffron and cardamom flavored syrup, make a very delicious dessert. The jamun color varies from golden yellow to dark brown. I always make them dark brown to contrast the outside with the inside. In Bihar and Bengal, Kala jamuns are quite popular. They are made with Khoya and paneer and have a very dark brown, almost black color and are large in size. I have also heard people raving about Gulab jamuns with plain whipped cream or Vanilla Ice cream. I should try that some time….
This recipe is thanks to my very accomplished sister Sharada who lives in Sydney. Every time I make Gulab Jamuns, I think of her and wonder if this same recipe would taste slightly different in another continent. Quite possible, I would think.
The recipe has two parts to it. First, you prepare the sugar syrup in which the jamuns/dumplings are to be immersed. The second part consists of making the Jamun dough and frying the jamuns. This recipe makes about 20 jamuns. Some points to remember are:
1. Make sure the syrup is very warm when you immerse the jamuns in it.
2. Fry Jamuns on low heat and move them around delicately so that it has a uniform brown color.
3. Fry Jamuns until they are a nice brown all over.
4. Let the Jamuns sit in the syrup at least for 3 hours before serving.
5. The jamuns will almost double in size after keeping them in sugar syrup.
6. The trick to making perfect jamuns is in getting the dough to the right consistency and frying the jamuns on low heat. Don’t make the dough too soft. When you make balls from the dough, they should retain their shape. The quantity of cream I have given here works well. If you think you need more cream to bind the dough, add a few tea spoons of cream until a nice yet firm dough is achieved. And fry them on low heat for at least 6 minutes. Don’t be in a hurry to take them out.
Half cup self-rising flour or plain flour/maida
Note: If using maida/plain flour, add 1/4 tea spoon baking powder and a pinch of salt.
1 cup non-fat milk powder (any brand)
100 ML cream/whipping cream
1 tea spoon coarsely powdered cardamoms/elaichi
1/4 tea spoon saffron/kesar OR half tea spoon rose water
3 cups vegetable oil for frying
3 cups sugar and 2 cups water for the syrup
1. In a large cooking pot, mix sugar and water and bring it to boil. Once the syrup starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring it a few times in between. Take syrup off the stove. Add cardamoms/elaichi and saffron/kesar to the syrup and stir a couple of times. If using rose water, add rose water instead of the saffron.
2. In a bowl, mix milk powder and flour with a spoon. Pour cream all over the mix. Let it stand for 3 minutes. Now knead a soft dough with hand for about a minute. If you think you need more cream to bind the dough, add a few tea spoons of cream until a nice yet firm dough is achieved.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high setting.
4. Make small balls (jamuns), about 1 inch diameter, from the dough and make sure they are perfectly round and smooth all over with no cracks on the surface.
5. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium low. Pull out a very tiny bit of dough from one of the jamuns and put it in oil. It should sizzle softly and float up in 2-3 seconds. If it does, the oil is ready for frying.
6. Fry the jamuns in batches depending on the size of your pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan with jamuns. Turn the jamuns around often to ensure uniform cooking. Once they turn dark brown all over, collect them on a large spoon with holes, let the oil drain and then immerse them softly in the syrup. I generally rest the spoon under a paper towel for a couple of seconds to make sure all oil is absorbed and then immerse them in the syrup.
7. Let the Jamuns sit in the syrup for at least 3 hours before serving.